To get to the essence of Kyle Brooks’ coaching philosophy, just ask him to describe his team.
“I say, ask me 15 years from now,” Brooks said. “We’re going to be in good shape. These guys are going to be good dads and husbands and have really good careers.”
It’s that larger-than-the-game outlook that has made Brooks so beloved in his 22 years as Prairie’s boys basketball coach.
Wednesday, Brooks coached his final game in the Prairie gymnasium. The Falcons fell 66-57 to Mountain View, which improved to 4-9 in the 4A/3A Greater St. Helens League
During timeouts, Prairie’s public address announcer highlighted some of Brooks’ accomplishments. Those include more than 360 wins, seven Greater St. Helens League titles, eight trips to the state quarterfinals and two semifinal berths.
Some of Brooks’ fondest memories were also shared with the crowd. Those include close home wins in a packed gym and trips to road games where the team grew closer.
In another twist in an odd year, Wednesday’s game was just Prairie’s second since May 6. The Falcons (5-3) have spent most of May on pause due to COVID within the program. Against Mountain View, only five varsity players and three junior-varsity callups were in uniform.
“Our kids, we tell them adversity is our friend,” Brooks said. “If you can face adversity in a game, win or lose, that correlates to life.”
And few people know adversity more than Brooks. He continues to regain strength and mobility after a debilitating bout with Guillain-Barre syndrome. The condition, in which the body’s immune system attacks the nerves, hospitalized Brooks in January 2020 and left him temporarily paralyzed.
Wednesday, Brooks was active and strong while pacing in front of the Prairie bench.
“I’m doing better,” Brooks said. “It’s just going to take a long time. But I’m optimistic. My wife Jane and I, we’re just trusting the Lord. I’m going to get better day by day.”
Brooks recently told his team about his decision to retire, both to focus fully on his recovery and spend time with his grandchildren. He’ll also step down from his day job teaching health and physical education at Prairie.
Brooks’ successor hasn’t been named. He hopes the job will go to assistant coach Jimmy Tuominen, who led the Falcons last season in Brooks’ absence.
“For me, that sums up the whole career where you can pass it on to one of your colleagues,” Brooks said.
Prairie has two road games remaining and a 4A/3A GSHL postseason contest. Brooks wants his players to let those moments sink in.
“First of all, we’re telling them to just enjoy playing and have fun,” Brooks said. “They haven’t been able to do that for a while.”
Austin Lee led Mountain View with 22 points, hitting six of his team’s 10 3-pointers. Isaiah Vargas added 17 points.
Prairie stayed within striking distance thanks to 24 points from Hayden Rose. But the Thunder turned back every Prairie run in the second half, never letting that Falcons get closer than seven points.